LONGMONT, Colo. –

Neighbors of the Rocky Mountain Christian Church won’t be seeing new buildings at the Niwot campus immediately, despite a judge’s order for Boulder County to approve the church’s expansion plan.

U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn on Monday ordered county commissioners to give the go-ahead to the church, which has asked to be able to expand on land adjacent to its 106,000-square foot campus.

The county has 45 days to comply with Blackburn’s ruling, but it has the option of appealing. Church leaders said Tuesday there are no immediate plans to begin construction.

“Our expectation is that we will definitely expand, but there is no time table at this moment for that,” said Rev. Alan Ahlgrim, the church’s lead pastor. “But we’re hopeful that the county commissioners will agree to partner with us and do what’s best for the county. It was never our desire to go this far.”

Commissioners denied the church’s expansion permit in 2006, saying the project was an over-intensive use of the property and not in harmony with surrounding areas. They also said the expansion would move into an agricultural buffer zone created decades ago to separate urban and rural areas.

The church â which proposed to build an education building, a chapel, a multipurpose building, a gymnasium and a gallery on 54 acres of private land â sued, claiming the county discriminated against it.

A jury in Colorado’s federal district court found in November that the county violated three parts of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by denying the church’s application.

But the jury found commissioners did not discriminate on the basis of religion and, therefore, did not infringe on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

In his ruling, Blackburn said he supported the jury’s verdicts in favor of the church. The county argued its decision was valid because the Boulder County Land Use Code and the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan are “compelling governmental interests,” but the judge disagreed.

“I think we had a strong case and still do,” County Commissioner Ben Pearlman said Tuesday, adding that the commission has not yet discussed whether it will appeal.

The county also argued that portions of religious land use act unconstitutional, but Blackburn disagreed with that assertion as well.

Blackburn has yet to decide how much of the church’s legal costs Boulder County will have to pay.

Commissioner Will Toor said he believes the county has a strong case, but he and his colleagues will have to weigh the value of pursuing it.

“Certainly, the decision will be made with consideration of what the cost will be to appeal,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Archived comments

Please appeal. This is a disaster.

KR

3/31/2009 7:39:36 AM

I’m not a member of this church, but I think the judge made the right call. That church is out in the middle of nowhere. It is not going to create an “urban” area. It’s their land, and if they have the $ to build on, then they should be allowed. I don’t blame them for wanting to have their own school where it is OK to say “God” and be free to express their Christian identity.

dludler

3/31/2009 8:05:46 AM

Are the County Commissioners going to reimburse the taxpayers the attorney’s fees we had to pay for their dumb mistake?

spud

3/31/2009 8:31:51 AM

This is a disaster. The roads around this church are not large enough to support a project this big.

laughinghard

3/31/2009 8:46:10 AM

Boulder Couty Commissioners are a bunch of hacks. They make all sorts of “exceptions to the rule” for their pals and pet projects and then make ridiculous decisions against perfectly reasonable plans like RMCC and Dawson School.

The commissioners should have their pay docked by the amount of the lawyers fees for both sides on this one.

boulder_native

3/31/2009 9:09:36 AM

KR,

Please clarify your statement. What about this is a disaster?

galatians522@hotmail.com

3/31/2009 9:12:36 AM

This is a disaster because county residents will in effect have to subsidize the narrow interests of one ambitious religious group (subsidize because they will be tax exempt, yet their mega church will rely heavily on the resources/infrastructure of the surrounding community). The church obviously couldn’t deal with the will of the people as voiced through elected representatives and so found an activist judge to rule in their favor. We the people have a right to appeal this, and I hope we do.

KR

3/31/2009 9:24:28 AM

Im sure the church wont mind a new supersized madrassa down the road…

JakPott

3/31/2009 9:27:37 AM

Good spot for some of those thirsty trees on county property down the road……………..

thecondoguy1

3/31/2009 9:37:35 AM

they want to build a school….maybe if the BVSD was worth a SH*T they wouldn’t…dont blame the parents that attend this church for wanting not only a better education for their kids, but an education to begin with (teachers this is not a slam at you by any means…i couldnt do what you do on your “salary”…)oh and sorry for all the misspellings and grammer mistakes…i went through the BVSD

he_b_gb@yahoo.com

3/31/2009 9:37:47 AM

KR prove with actual data that 95th street is “too small for the volume of traffic”.

Every road in Boulder county is “too small for the given traffic”Look at the diagonal on any work day.95th takes a huge daily load of people commuting to and from Boulder/Longmont because the DIag is totally inadequate.

Don’t blame a small church of a couple of thousand on the 10s of thousands of displaced drivers because Boulder refuses to build adequate roads and expand major highways like the Diag.

What about Hwy 52 and IBM and the major Crocs plant?

Is 95th any smaller than Pike with massive corporate offices between Hover and 287?

I think you can’t support your argument any other way than by your bias against Churchs or NIMBY attitude.

boulder_native

3/31/2009 9:53:34 AM

Praise Jebus.Uggghhh……..

LM

3/31/2009 9:54:50 AM

If you build it, they will come.

S_S_Mama

3/31/2009 10:03:53 AM

LM- thanks for proving that the Boulder Daily Camera is a bastion of bigoted Chrsitian-haters

boulder_native

3/31/2009 10:05:04 AM

Tax the bejesus out of these f*ckers and they will disappear.

JesusThinksYoureAJerk

3/31/2009 10:23:00 AM

Get rid of this absurd law, which amounts to theocratic eminent domain.

positraction

3/31/2009 10:46:49 AM

Boulder-native: People have every right to dislike christianity. It is the only institution in America, other than neo-nazis, that openly discriminates against gays and women. Maybe you should get a history book or two and research things like the Dark Ages, Salem Witch Trials, Spanish Inquisition, Crusades, etc. Christianity is evil.

Sophocles

3/31/2009 10:53:09 AM

Boulder-native wrote “What about Hwy 52 and IBM and the major Crocs plant?”

See, this is simple — IBM and Crocs PAY TAXES. Do you understand the difference?

They also didn’t seek an activist judge’s order to establish themselves where they are.

KR

3/31/2009 11:00:30 AM

Hate them?no

Disgusted by the way ancient superstitions are taught to impressionable children as TRUTH, thus carrying on the tradition of guilt, fear, and anti-intellectualism?yes

Tax them.

LM

3/31/2009 11:02:48 AM

Good post, boulder_native (9:53 a.m.).Sophocles, your comment, while valid on its own, shows exactly the problem with people who oppose this expansion.They do so by citing “traffic congestion” without giving any statistics as to how this intersection is any different than countless others in the county.But, as Sophocles inadvertently exposes, what they are really mad about is that this is a Christian church.I am not personally Christian, but separation of church and state (a phrase not found in the Constitution, btw) must be allowed to work both ways.If the church’s case is legally permissible, as it is de facto due to the judges ruling, then people can’t fall back on anti-Christian bias to block them.That, it seems to me, is the essence of hypocrisy.

joatmon

3/31/2009 11:09:12 AM

Amen!

jay1831

3/31/2009 11:09:37 AM

Joatmon-you’re right. I just want use this space to debate christianity and its effect on society. I think it’s evil and has a negative effect. It has held back the human race long enough. It makes no sense. Can anyone out there explain how creationism makes more sense than evolution or the big bang? Why do religious people refuse to debate these things? Are they taught to respond with anger towards any criticism or questioning of their faith? Of all the infinite enigma and wonderment that exist in this world, you’re telling me christianity has all the answers? Ridiculous and ignorant. Why do people choose ignorance?

Sophocles

3/31/2009 11:29:07 AM

Sophocles: Can you explain 2 things for me please, before we start the debate?

1) From where did the matter come that made possible the Big Bang? Keep in mind the First Law of Thermodynamics, and by implication, the Theory of General Relativity-that if energy is conserved in a closed system, then matter is also conserved.

2) From where did the original DNA come to begin the process of macro evolution?

Believe me, there are plenty of people willing to debate the shortcomings of the theory of evolution, and the Big Bang anomaly, and not all are religious. But if you are truly curious, read Norman Geisler, or just read his sources.

blacksho89@yahoo.com

3/31/2009 12:15:01 PM

What would Jebus build?

I’m sure he needs one more big bookstore in his name.He needs another coffee kiosk in his name.He needs another gymnasium in his name.

In the meantime trees are dying and there’s nowhere for the bums at the library to stay warm in the winter.

I call it misplaced priorities.

Romulus

3/31/2009 12:45:44 PM

Big, litigious, corporate religion in Jesus’ name is about like operating a Mahatma Ghandi hamburger chain.

Want fries with that?

Dr_Johnson

3/31/2009 2:15:27 PM

joatmon: “separation of church and state (a phrase not found in the Constitution, btw”

Not using that vernacular, but this is, in the first amendment no less…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Gad_Deelzhah

3/31/2009 2:44:55 PM

My parents live in Niwot near the intersection of Hover and Niwot Rd. where the current church facilities are located and where the expansion would take place.

It is a very dangerous situation driving in that area every Sunday morning in all seasons. The 2 lane roads are NOT well suited for the Sunday morning traffic surge as it now stands. It seems to me that, if the church wants to be a good neighbor, the church should offer to help the county and state fund the road improvements necessary to handle the existing and future traffic flows. Locating a large facility at a semi-rural crossroads in Niwot is like building a Super Walmart with a single lane road as the only access, all who do not understand should take a ride up there and take a look, it’s not that far away from the People’s Republic.

theprairieprankster

3/31/2009 2:53:24 PM

This will not be the last expansion. Mega churches that we are familiar keep growing and growing and growing. Some of our friends and relatives absolutely love the format, and they ‘tithe’ a considerable amount of money… so if you think it’s big now, just wait a few years.

katiekurt

3/31/2009 4:41:39 PM

Let them pay taxes and be responsible neighbors at least in that respect.They should do so voluntarily if it isn’t compulsory, as part of the community.

CityZen

3/31/2009 5:00:33 PM

Romulus — you called it, I agree completely.

boulder_native — a SMALL CHURCH of a couple of thousand?Are you kidding me?You have lost all perspective.

Jafly

3/31/2009 5:10:15 PM

Gad_Deelzhah, while I am certainly no constitutional scholar, I am very well aware of the “establishment clause” in the Constitution.You might want to look at the second part of that clause, “prohibiting the establishment thereof”.It is unconstitutional to deny a church to expand simply because we don’t like the idea(s) that they believe in.This matter has been heard by the courts, who have decided that this expansion is lawful.Any “Christianity bashing” is extraneous to the matter of expansion under the establishment clause.As is their tax status.While both topics might be interesting debates, neither has a single thing to do with this expansion in the wake of the court decision.

joatmon

3/31/2009 5:49:17 PM

Seems that much of the sentiment here is that Christians are OK and it’s not that we hate them, it’s just that they need to stay in their place, no be too visible, you know. Sound familiar to anybody?

andy@dickson.org

3/31/2009 6:38:50 PM

Andy-I’m just scared of anyone willing to believe in something that is completely illogical.

Sophocles

3/31/2009 6:50:29 PM

There is no god!

BiggieSmalls

3/31/2009 7:17:58 PM

Sophoclesâ

OK to oppose this church expansion, but “you should get a history book or two and research things”â like Sir Isaac Newton, the Abolitionist movement, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Habitat for Humanity, Louis Pasteur, the Red Cross, the YMCA, even the Amish, for God’s sake. Still feeling scared?

Jim

jiminboulder

3/31/2009 8:09:20 PM

Jim-Wow. I have obviously offended you. Please don’t burn me alive in order to appease your god. PS. There are these things called dinosaurs that completely disprove christianity(Among nine million other things). Google it. Dinosaurs. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of them. Visit a museum sometime. Fascinating stuff. In the mean time, just keep suppressing stem cell research, logical thought, and gays.

Sophocles

3/31/2009 8:21:32 PM

does anyone know how i can help appeal this ridiculous decision?

bouldermomma

3/31/2009 8:53:13 PM

I am pleased with this ruling. I drove that road regularly (as a member of RMCC) and don’t find the roads “dangerous” on Sunday morning at all. And RMCC regularly gives back into the community. In fact, that very facility that they are expanding is used nearly every day of the week by non-religious “community” groups that need a place to meet. I know that Boulder is the mecca of anti-Christian “free-thought”, but I think it seems logical to let a place that does in fact bless the community, grow and expand their ability to do so.

I want to make a few comments to the faith debate on here. It takes as much faith to NOT believe in a God as it does to believe in a God. If I am putting my trust in the fact that there is an almighty creator and in the proof that I see for that, and you are putting your trust in the fact that there is nothing out there and the proof you see for that, we are equally “faith based” in our beliefs. You simply have more “faith” in what you believe about carbon dating (or whatever your using) and I have more faith in “intelligent design” and “can’t have something from nothing”.

On another note: Christianity has been highly abused over the years. Much evil has been done in the name of Christianity. That’s very true. Any true follower of Jesus Christ will tell you that those are atrocities that would enrage Him and should enrage His followers. Much evil has been done in the name of the United States and “freedom” and yet we don’t see people tearing up the consitution. It’s a twisting and spoiling of an original plan that has caused those things, not a flaw in the original design. Jesus doesn’t want coffee houses and t-shirts. And Jesus LOVES gay people, women, prostitutes, porn-stars and yes, even Boulderites who despise Him.

jhart2714

3/31/2009 9:07:27 PM

Do we really care what happens in Longmont? Maybe the Jesus freaks can use some of that land to setup a “Crusaders” shooting range?

snarlpup

3/31/2009 10:06:43 PM

Sophoclesâ No, man, not offended at all.Just asking you to approach facts on the same terms you’ve offered others. Now, seriously, what about “Sir Isaac Newton, the Abolitionist movement, Jimmy Carter, Habitat for Humanity, Louis Pasteur, the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Amish, and Dr. Martin Luther King?” Let’s talk about this. You’re OK with me.

Best,

Jim

jiminboulder

3/31/2009 10:22:33 PM

jhart-

and here is some more evil being done in God’s name.If RMCC wants to be a good neighbor- PAY TAXES, to pay for the road use! LISTEN to your neighbors who do NOT want this atrocity in the open space buffer. And maybe read God’s word a bit-a church is wherever two believers meet- it does NOT need to be a gallery, or gym, or whatever else millions is being spent for.How about taking that money, and doing a little mission work?? I’m sure the church does LOTS of mission work- but they could do even more with the millions ear-marked for this project!!Seriously ask-“What Would Jesus Do?”- I”m pretty sure he wouldn’t build a gallery and gym.

seriously

3/31/2009 10:36:48 PM

SNARLUP..are you volunteering to be a target…i need some practice

he_b_gb@yahoo.com

3/31/2009 10:53:36 PM

Only if you shoot at me in “Jesus'” name, and admit that you have personal conversations with God (by cell phone, preferably). Better yet, shoot at me while you ‘speak in tongues’ and bring some molested choir boys along as witnesses.

snarlpup

3/31/2009 11:40:35 PM

My guess is that most Christians don’t believe in the world being around 6000 years old.That is what the Intelligent Design people usually think.That’s because they desperately need to have the Bible be literally true. Doesn’t it make more sense to think of it as a collection of stories rather than literal events that go against common sense?

Also, by Intelligent Design, they don’t mean god directing evolution. They mean everything created instantly with no evolution from species to species. There isn’t really a big conflict between evolution and religion unless you insist on a literal Bible. Evolution has been researched for decades and the evidence has continued to support it. Couldn’t you just believe that god directed evolution? That would be more reasonable, which I realize is not something valued among the ID crowd.

Oh yeah, and tax the churches!

birdmother15

4/1/2009 2:11:40 AM

Notify Homeland Security.

Fence them in, interrogate them, waterboard if you have to.

Megachurches are a form of homegrown terrorism disguised as spirituality.

Tax them out of existence.

meta4

4/1/2009 3:07:09 AM

Wow you Boulderites are so tolerant. You have all this anger because they want to expand a church, that is messed up.

Bigair

4/1/2009 5:44:48 AM

Sophocles: Still no answer to my 12:15 post yesterday, or to jiminboulder at 8:09?

I’ll have to assume, then, that you did not pick your screen name out of any sort of admiration for the historical Greek tradition of discourse and examination.

blacksho89@yahoo.com

4/1/2009 5:47:00 AM

I don’t see where Flatirons Crossing paid to expand US 36.Nor did Naropa pay to expand Arapahoe when it moved in.

yaakovwatkins

4/1/2009 6:17:23 AM

Appeal…God hates Super Walmart Fast-Food Churches

Teledude

4/1/2009 7:19:13 AM

Bigair – best quote of this string.

Nothing quite like watching hypocrites call others hypocrites.

backrange

4/1/2009 9:23:31 AM

I think it’s a bit melodramatic to rank “church expansion” up there with The Crusades as “evil”. RMCC pours TONS of money into Boulder county in local mission work every year. When I was living there, I was a missionary to the homeless teens living in Boulder and Longmont. RMCC was the ONLY church that financially supported that effort. Their building expansion is not gaudy, nor is it outrageous. They aren’t spending $30 million to have fancy stained glass and a rose window imported from France. They are actually expanding the sanctuary to cut down on the number of services they have to have every Sunday! You’re right–seriously–where 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ Name He promises to be there. However, Jesus himself taught to crowds of 15-30,000 at time (5,000 men plus their wives and children). He, of course, didn’t have to deal with the locals grumbling about the trampled “endangered” grass!

And it’s interesting you would call mega-churches terrorism…in what way are you being terrorized by RMCC? Homeland Security usually defends the constitutional rights of citizens such as freedom of assembly, speech and press!

I also think that believing the Bible like you would believe in Aesop’s Fables (like a book of nice stories) would be a really pointless waste of your time. Either, it’s literally true, and we are truly living in a fallen world where people bite and devour each other (for example these terrible things being said about your neighbors) and where atrocities happen because people are selfish to the core, and we desperately need Someone that can put it to rights; or, it’s all a big myth, this is as good as it gets, and you should look out for number one and defend “open space” like it was your only child. Either belief system takes faith. Just don’t pretend that your scientific beliefs aren’t just as faith based as my Biblical beliefs.

jhart2714

4/1/2009 10:40:00 AM

again- I admitted that RMCC does a lot of good mission work- but how much MORE could be done, instead of building a gallery/gym (and I’m sorry , but that IS gaudy and outrageous- how are those 2 features helping to cut down on the number of services??)And Jesus taught to crowds of thousands on hillsides, and fields- NOT in glorious buildings.And come one- rose windows imported from France- doesn’t really happen anymore- red herring.And go ahead- expand the sanctuary- and that’s all- pretty sure most folks would be ok with that.It’s the school, gym, gallery (what the heck is that for anyway!!??) that people are not thrilled with. I never called RMCC terrorism- different post.Again- freedom of religion and all- how about paying taxes like everyone else??And really- you think ALL of the Bible is literally true???? Have you READ the Old Testament???? Yikes!I think even in the Bible, Jesus says many of his teachings are parables- not literal.

All in all- let’s get down to it-Would Jesus build this behemoth?? I think not.

seriously

4/1/2009 11:16:54 AM

Yes, I’ve read every word of the Old Testament. Jesus said some of His teachings were parables, and some were literal miracles. And there is allegorical language used in the Old Testament, but here’s the deal: If there wasn’t a literal “fall” then there would be no need for a literal death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, which is what my faith is based on. If there is no sin, then there is no need for salvation.

I know I was addressing several different posts in that response, so not all of them were directed at “seriously”.

And actually, there is a large church in Lubbock, TX that boasts of it’s “Third largest rose window in the world”. You can go see it today. It’s gaudy and pretentious and offensive to me, who work with homeless people and realize how many can be fed with that money. Again, I haven’t been at RMCC since I moved away, but when I was there it was a balcony they were adding, which is what I assumed the term “gallery” was indicating. The gym makes sense because they host several youth programs, and have a very large youth group that it would be hard to find a place to play basketball anywhere else. And if they are putting in a school, they would need a gym!

It’s interesting what you ask about “would Jesus build this”. I think that’s like asking “would Jesus wear nike shoes?” Well, I think that depends on what Jesus was trying to accomplish. Would He wear Nike’s to show off that he was wearing Nike’s? NO! But if Jesus was trying to reach an afterschool basketball program and needed to play basketball with them, and Nike makes the best b-ball shoes, I think Jesus wouldn’t have a problem with some Nike’s. Paul said, “I become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” In a very wealthy, opulent area like Boulder County, having up to standard facilities and air conditioning and a building to gather in, IS ministering to that area. It’s not the only way to do it, but I don’t think it’s “evil” either. I think they are doing what they feel called to do. Not as revenge on the community, but in an effort to better reach out to the community.

jhart2714

4/1/2009 11:35:47 AM

“Paul said, “I become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” In a very wealthy, opulent area like Boulder County, having up to standard facilities and air conditioning and a building to gather in, IS ministering to that area.”

Nice. If your church is in an area inhabited by those who believe in the extermination of the Jews, or aparthied, or plural marriage, or the sacrifice of virgins, or accumulating material wealth, you can go along, and still be a Christian. There seems to be very little you can’t believe and still be a Christian.

So, following this line of reasoning, just where do so-called Christians get off telling other people how the can live their lives?

Dr_Johnson

4/1/2009 12:11:49 PM

Doc: Comparing air conditioning to mass murder? That’s over the top even for YOU.

blacksho89@yahoo.com

4/1/2009 2:42:38 PM

Doc Johnson–Let’s not be ridiculous. Extermination of Jews, aparthied, plural marriage, sacrifice of virgins and hoarding wealth all fly in the face of the Gospel. That’s not the point Paul is making. He’s saying that there’s little influence a business man in a suit will make in poverty stricken areas of Africa; and there’s little difference a raggedly-dressed, birkenstock clad woman would make in corporate America. The Gospel is about freeing the oppressed and bringing justice to those who are persecuted. It’s about loving even the unlovable because we were so greatly loved ourselves. That means that to you I get to use phrases like “influence” and “poverty” and even “apartheid”, but when I work with homeless kids, I just say “difference” and “poor” and “racist”. We speak how they speak. We learn the language. We don’t blend in and believe what they beleive. You’re being purposefully obtuse!

jhart2714

4/1/2009 3:29:18 PM

“Extermination of Jews, aparthied, plural marriage, sacrifice of virgins and hoarding wealth all fly in the face of the Gospel.”

If you change “sacrifice of virgins” to “sex with minor children” you can find Christian sects that practice or endorse all of those and a great deal more as well, and cite the Bible as authority.

You can even find people who claim to be familiar with the radical teachings of Yeshua and insist he meant for his followers to operate a successful corporate religion business.

Dr_Johnson

4/1/2009 3:46:31 PM

I don’t know. I think sandals look better with a long robe than Nikes. What size does Jesus wear? I bet its size 12. This kind of reminds me of a bumper sticker.

birdmother15

4/1/2009 3:47:11 PM

“I don’t know. I think sandals look better with a long robe than Nikes.”

He’d be mistaken for a Hare Krishna.

Dr_Johnson

4/1/2009 4:02:14 PM

All this despite the fact that fewer and fewer Americans are going to church and associating themselves with a particular religion.Some of you are finally sticking your heads above the fog.

mcmann

4/1/2009 4:17:06 PM

Who cares what happens in Longmont? This is not news.

snarlpup

4/1/2009 4:27:47 PM

jhart

great post- you gave me somethings to think about. I still vehemently oppose this church expansion- but you make some very good points. thanks.

seriously

4/1/2009 10:33:27 PM

I hope this greedy stupid church suffers from the same things that every greedy stupid person in our society has suffered from recently. Hope they can’t make their loan payments. Dumping a project this large on a quiet corner of Niwot (I guess it’s technically Longmont, but swear this is right next to niwot high) and making the rest of world pay for your christianity in way of roads that will be needed-is selfish and absurd. I’ll be praying you go bye-bye.

laughinghard

4/1/2009 10:57:05 PM